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Skepticism Between Excessiveness and Idleness

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Skepticism seems to have excessive consequences: the impossibility of successful enquiry and differentiated judgment. Yet if skepticism could avoid these consequences, it would seem idle. I offer an account of moderate skepticism that avoids both problems. Moderate skepticism avoids excessiveness because skeptical reflection and ordinary enquiry are immune from one another: a skeptical hypothesis is out of place when raised with in an ordinary enquiry. Conversely, the result of an ordinary enquiry cannot be used to disprove skepticism. This ‘immunity’ can be explained by theories such as contextualism, or sensitive invariantism. Moderate skepticism avoids idleness, because it can eliminate dogmatic elements from our commitments. An analogy is used to illustrate this: Consider someone who is rootless—someone who doesn't have a home. She won't take this conclusion to undermine her judgment that she is flying home for the holidays—even if she is sleeping in the guest bedroom. Similarly, a skeptic won't take the skeptical conclusion to undermine ordinary claims to know. Yet concluding that one is rootless is significant: it can shape one's commitments; for instance it can check one's nationalism. Similarly, accepting the skeptical conclusion is significant; it can undermine dogmatic commitments and ultimately bring about intellectual catharsis.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Philosophy Brandeis University, USA, Email:

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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